Russian submarines fire cruise missiles at Daesh in Syria

A still taken from Russian Ministry of Defense handout video shows a cruise missile being fired from a Russian warship at sea, on May 31, 2017. (Photo courtesy: video grab)
Updated 15 September 2017

Russian submarines fire cruise missiles at Daesh in Syria

ABOARD THE ADMIRAL ESSEN: Russia’s military fired seven cruise missiles on Thursday at Daesh targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor as pro-regime forces closed in on the militants holed up in the eponymous capital.
Journalists on a trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry watched from the deck of Russia’s Admiral Essen frigate as two submarines launched seven missiles from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air cover, last week broke a three-year siege around the city on the Euphrates River.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters later that intelligence showed the missiles hit the targets southeast of Deir Ezzor, destroying a command center, a communications hub, an ammunition depot and an unspecified number of Daesh fighters.
Russia has provided military backing for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since 2015. It has repeatedly fired salvoes of such missiles, from both the sea and mainland Russia.
An Associated Press reporter on the deck of the Admiral Essen frigate saw three missiles and later four more flying into the air, leaving trails of smoke. Two submarines have emerged and were visible on the horizon shortly afterwards.
Backed by an intense aerial campaign, Syrian and allied forces pushed their way toward the city last week, breaking a nearly three-year siege on its troops on the western edge of Deir Ezzor. It was a major symbolic victory for the pro-government forces. Since then, they have been battling remnants of the militants inside the city, seizing more than 60 percent of it. On Thursday, the pro-regime forces were closing in at the extremists from three sides along the river, pounding Al-Bogheliyah neighborhood on the northwestern edge of the city.
The militants are currently encircled by Syrian troops from three sides, with their backs to the Euphrates River. However, they still control rural areas outside the city and the border with Iraq.
As Daesh reels from significant losses in Syria and Iraq, there is a race for control of the border with Iraq, currently still in the militants’ hands. US-backed Syrian forces are meanwhile advancing in the surrounding province from the east and north, on the other side of the river.
Bassem Aziz, a spokesman for the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said his troops had taken control of an industrial area on the eastern bank of the river, a few kilometers from the government troops. Aziz said they are about 6 km away from the city’s eastern entrance.
In its statement last week, the US-led coalition said it will back its partners on the ground to defeat Daesh and “will do our utmost to ensure that (Daesh) terrorists do not move toward the border of our Iraqi partners.
On Wednesday night, a convoy of Daesh terrorists and their relatives being evacuated from the border with Lebanon has crossed into Deir Ezzor from a desert area in central Syria, ending a standoff with the US-led coalition that briefly overshadowed the race for the province.
The evacuation, negotiated by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, removed the militants from the Syria-Lebanon border but angered Iraq and the US, which said they should have been killed on the battlefield not moved to the Iraq border.
The deal reached at the end of August allowed hundreds of militants and their families to relocate to Boukamal, a Daesh-held Syrian town near the Iraqi border, in exchange for Daesh-held prisoners and the remains of Lebanese soldiers captured in 2014. One surviving Hezbollah fighter was returned to Lebanon on Thursday.
The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdurrahman said buses and vehicles carrying about 400 militants and civilians crossed into Deir Ezzor province Wednesday. It was not clear where the buses went.
The US-led coalition struck the road the convoy was traveling on, leaving it stranded in the desert for about two weeks, though some vehicles were able to slip into militant-held territory. The US said it did not strike the convoy itself because of the presence of civilians.
Last week, the US-led coalition said it ended surveillance of the convoy after a Russian request, as Syrian troops advanced against Daesh in eastern Deir Ezzor province.
The proximity of the two forces raises the specter of confrontation, as both sides vie for the border with Iraq and the oil and resources-rich province.


Iranian foreign minister Zarif arrives in Biarritz during G7

Updated 25 August 2019

Iranian foreign minister Zarif arrives in Biarritz during G7

  • Iranian foreign ministry says Zarif will not hold talks with Trump and his team
  • Earlier Trump dampened down Emmanuel Macron's optimism on Iran talks

BIARRITZ, France: -Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in the French seaside resort of Biarritz Sunday for talks during a G7 summit.

"Zarif... has arrived in Biarritz, where the G7 is being held, to continue talks regarding the recent measures between the presidents of Iran and France," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, referring to their efforts to salvage a nuclear deal.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump appeared to brush aside French efforts to mediate with Iran on Sunday, saying that while he was happy for President Emmanuel Macron to reach out to Tehran to defuse tensions he would carry on with his own initiatives.
European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled his country out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Macron, who has pushed mediation efforts in recent weeks to avoid a further deterioration in the region, had told LCI television that the G7 had agreed on joint action on Iran.
The French presidency said G7 leaders had even agreed that Macron should hold talks and pass on messages to Iran after they discussed the issue over dinner at a summit in southwestern France on Saturday evening.
However, Trump, who has pushed a maximum pressure policy on Iran, pushed back.
Asked if he had signed off on a statement that Macron intends to give on behalf of the G7 on Iran, Trump said:
“I haven’t discussed this. No I haven’t,” he told reporters, adding that Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were free to talk to Iran.
“We’ll do our own outreach, but, you know, I can’t stop people from talking. If they want to talk, they can talk.”
Macron, who has taken the lead to defuse tensions fearing that a collapse of the nuclear deal could set ablaze the Middle East, met Zarif on Friday. The aim was to discuss proposals that could ease the crisis, including the idea of reducing some US sanctions or providing Iran with an economic compensation mechanism.
Macron appeared to backtrack on his own team’s comments later, saying there was no formal mandate from the G7 leaders to pass a message to Iran.
Highlighting just how difficult agreeing on concrete measures between allies is, Macron said the leaders’ views had converged on not wanting Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb and ensuring peace and security in the Middle East.
He was supposed to discuss those ideas with Trump on the sidelines of the G7, which also comprises Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU.
“Everyone wants to avoid a conflict, Donald Trump was extremely clear on that point,” Macron told LCI.
“We have to continue to take initiatives and in the coming weeks that on the one hand there are no more Iranian decisions that contradict this objective and that we open new negotiations,” Macron said without giving details.
In response to the tougher US sanctions and what it says is the inability of European powers party to the deal — France, Britain and Germany, to compensate it for its lost oil revenue, Tehran has responded with a series of moves, including retreating from some of its commitments to limit its nuclear activity made under the deal.
The United States has made no indication it will ease any sanctions and it is unclear what kind of compensation mechanism Macron wants to offer Iran given at this stage a proposed trade channel for humanitarian and food exchanges with Iran is still not operational.
Macron has also said that in return for any concessions he would expect Iran to comply fully with the nuclear deal and for Iran to engage in new negotiations that would include its ballistic missile program and regional activities.